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Thomas B. Kelley,

Of Counsel



Tom Kelley joined Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP at the close of 2018, after retiring from a career of over 40 years defending the rights and privileges of journalists and news organizations. Tom has been described by Chambers USA as "a go-to guy in libel defense and media litigation in Colorado and nationally. His ease in the courtroom and excellent judgment [are] singled out by our clients." Tom was honored with the Champion of the First Amendment Award at the 2019 ABA Forum on Communications Law.


Tom's core mission for the remainder of his career is social justice advocacy on behalf of individuals, including journalists who lack the means to employ counsel.

Tom previously was with the national media and entertainment practice of Ballard Spahr, LLP and before that with the highly regarded First Amendment boutique law firm Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, which merged with Ballard Spahr in October 2017.

Representative Cases

  • Defended NBCUniversal, Inc., in an action alleging defamation and unlawful hidden camera recording brought by Brokers' Choice of America, and prevailed in the District of Colorado and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

  • Defended Gawker Media, LLC, in a defamation action by former Major League Baseball pitcher Mitch Williams in New Jersey Superior Court and prevailed on a motion for summary judgment on grounds of failure to show actual malice.

  • Successfully defended The Durango Herald and its former arts and entertainment editor in the District of Arizona and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a tort action arising from an email the editor sent to the publicist of a religious-oriented musical group.

  • Successfully defended a filmmaker in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals after the plaintiff, a drywall contractor, challenged the district court's award of summary judgment in a libel action arising from a documentary on the employment of migrant laborers. The court held that the film involved a matter of public concern and that the plaintiff had not offered sufficient proof of actual malice as required under Colorado law.

  • Represented The Denver Post in the trial and appeal of a seminal Colorado court case that established the rule that the actual malice standard applies in libel actions brought by private figures that involve matters of public concern.

  • Successfully represented Penthouse International, Inc., in an appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that reversed a $26.5 million jury verdict and recognized First Amendment protection for satire.

Professional Highlights

​Professional Activities

Litigation Counsel of America, Fellow Emeritus​

Colorado Bar Association, past Governing Board member

ABA Forum on Communications Law, past Chair; past Governing Board member; past Diversity Chair

Media Law Resource Center, Defense Counsel Section, past President

Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, past President and Board of Directors member

Sedona Conference Working Group on Protective Orders, Confidentiality and Public Access, 2004-2007

Colorado Supreme Court Committee on Pattern Civil Jury Instructions, 1994-2013


Recognition and Accomplishments

2019 ABA Forum on Communications Law's Champion of the First Amendment Award

Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business, First Amendment litigation, Senior Statesperson 2017-2018, Band 1 2008-2016, Band 2 2007

The Best Lawyers in America, 1991-2021; First Amendment Lawyer of the Year, 2011 and 2015; First Amendment Litigation Lawyer of the Year, 2012

2018 First Amendment Leadership Award, Media Law Resource Center

Colorado Super Lawyers, civil rights, 2006-2021

Denver Business Journal's Best of the Bar in Communications Law, 2006

Law Week Colorado Lawyer of the Year, 2013

Denver Bar Association Liberty Bell Award, 2000


Robert Sturm College of Law, University of Denver (J.D. 1972)

Amherst College (B.A. 1969)


U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth, Ninth, and 10th Circuits

U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado

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